Lunch and Learn
Every Tuesday for the past three weeks, the interns and mayoral fellows at the City Hall have had the opportunity to meet amazing speakers who attend our "Lunch and Learn series."
Last week we were honored to meet Teny Oded Ross, the executive director of the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence. Mr. Gross is a philosophically-minded, humble, and tough guy and his way of thinking and the work that he does for the community challenged me to give a second thought to my approach to community engagement. I have always questioned how I will translate my concentration into a career, especially with my plans to move back to Kenya. I keep asking myself how I would take what I have learned from an advanced system, with a lot of monetary and human resources and make it work in a country that is still struggling with AIDS and infectious diseases. But listening to Mr. Gross on how he works to reduce violence in Providence, I was challenged to reflect on my background, upbringing and to get out of my comfort zone.
St. Michaels Team, who were tired of burying their neighborhood children created the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence after an incidence in 2000 where 15-year old Jennifer Rivera was gunned down in front of her house a day before she was to testify in a murder trial. Now established and serving the urban areas of Rhode Island, the institute runs nonviolence training programs, supports street workers, and runs an education & employment program, victim support services, and adult reentry programs. The Institute employs past offenders and ex-gang members to prevent the crime they once were involved with, keeping them out of the streets, and empowering them to live a positive life after imprisonment. As the executive director of the Institute, Teny’s job spans from face-to-face counseling of kids during their most impulsive moments, to comforting the victim’s families, to cooperating with the police to ensure no comeback attack spurs out of an incidence that may cause irreversible damage.
I am convinced that for one to make a difference you have to be aware of the root causes of the problems in the society and this takes more than a college diploma - it requires commitment, determination, and cultural awareness. These are the things policymakers need as they make decisions from their conference rooms.